Finding a gallery is one of the most difficult and intimidating tasks as an emerging artist. It’s like finding your first job: You can’t get work because you don’t have experience, but you can’t get experience without work. Galleries are looking for established artists, but it’s difficult to become established without the credibility of a gallery. In fact, if you were established… would you even need a gallery? If that were the case, you could sell your artwork directly.
When I was starting out, I had no idea where to look or how I would break into the gallery world. I had read some books and articles on the topic and felt intimidated about the amount of work that went into finding a gallery. So here are some lessons that I learned along the way. If you’re a new artist and would like to have a gallery represent your work, you can look for a gallery with a few different methods.
Fan Out and Go Big
You can try and cover as much space as possible. The idea is that you make a handful of brochures or literature packs and send them out to a bunch of galleries. Hopefully, a gallery will fall in love with your work by simply getting your literature in the mail. The risk is that you will not get a response, and end up spending a lot of postage and paper. As a frugal artist, I would not recommend this method because it’s more costly. However, if you have no other options, you can give it a try and see if it works for you.
As a new artist, it might be a good idea to try and get connected with the galleries in your area. Stop by the galleries in person and introduce yourself. Bring some of your work or at least a business card. If that seems too intimidating, you can try and call or email them to set up an appointment. I have been able to make my best connections over email. Through email, they can look at your work at their convenience, and if they are interested they will get a hold of you. No pressure!
If you don’t have luck finding a gallery right away, try showing your art to some local businesses (ex: coffee shop, bar, library). This will give you an opportunity to become more comfortable talking to people, and to have your art available to be seen by the public. You will also be able to mention those opportunities on your resume as you start to build up your appearances.
Search for Opportunities
Look for specific opportunities in your local community: use art websites, local listings, and the news to seek out these chances. There may be galleries looking for participants in group shows or new galleries that need artists to fill the space. This can give you a chance to show off your work and get into a gallery through an unconventional way. Check out the local art resources in your area. You may have an arts community forum, or something similar that lists events.
Regardless of your methods, it’s important to keep trying. In the end, gallery representation is just a numbers game. The more people you reach, the better your chance of having gallery representation. Also, keep evolving your work. If a gallery isn’t interested in your particular style, they may change their minds as your evolve and grow as an artist.
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